Vanilla Bean Cake Layers
Yield: three 8-inch round layers
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter apprx 20 minutes)
2 2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups (630 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste, OR 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until each is fully incorporated.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk. Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers. Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean. Try not to over-bake. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Yield: ~5 cups
6 large egg whites (180 g)
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 340 g) unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped OR 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vanilla bean paste
2 teaspoons (4 g) instant espresso powder (or to taste) dissolved into 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) boiling water
Pinch or two of cinnamon (to taste)
Pinch of salt
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. *Be sure the bottom of the mixer bowl is neutral, not warm, before you begin adding the butter. Also, just a note that did you know you can't overbeat meringue once the sugar is added? So don't be afraid to really whip it until it's cool. Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add softened (but cool) butter in chunks, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth--I promise!). If too soft, chill bowl until cool, then try again until the right consistency. If for some reason, you can't get it to thicken up, even after it's nice and chilled, you can add a few cubes of cool butter and whip a bit more. Add flavourings and salt, then mix well.
Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes. If still not satiny, warm 1/3 of the buttercream in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, until warm, then add to remaining buttercream and rewhip.
Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.
Vanilla Bean Latte Layer Cake Assembly:
1. Place cooled cake layer on cake pedestal, or cake board, face up.
2. Spread 3/4-1 cup of buttercream on top using a small offset palette knife, leaving narrow border along outside edge.
3. Gently place 2nd cake layer on top, and be sure to centre it with bottom layer.
4. Repeat step 2.
5. Gently place final cake layer on top, face side down (so the clean bottom side is facing up).
6. Repeat step 2.
7. Fill a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip (I used Ateco #887), and pipe desired designs on cake to trim and decorate.
8. Sprinkle sliced cake servings with cinnamon, and garnish with espresso beans (optional).
This cake is best served at room temperature, and keeps nicely in a cake-keeper for up to 2 days. Swiss Meringue Buttercream cakes are ideally refrigerated after day 2, but should always be served at room temperature, so that it comes back to its light and cloud-like texture; otherwise, it will taste and feel like pure butter!